While in France this summer I had a chance to drop into the Miraculous medal chapel on Rue de Bac where Our Lady appeared in 1830 to Catherine Laboure. Catherine died in 1876 and was canonized in 1947 - when exhumed her body was found to be incorrupt and supple. She and St. Bernadette died within three years of one another, although Catherine lived a much longer life, in terms of their humility, poverty and love of vocation as well as (obviously) a devotion to Our Lady there are striking similarities. Catherine's body is now on view close to the alter in the chapel where she had a total of three visions. In all truth I didn't get to spend all that much time at the Church compared to somewhere like Nevers and I would love to have had more to explore its beauty. I was truly blessed to be able to kneel at the alter and say my Rosary ( I remembered all my "bloggy"-friend's intentions there whatever they might be) before her body. Unfortunately my camera battery died and so I managed to get fairly useless photo evidence apart from the following offerings:
Catherine is the saint who the miraculous medal was revealed to. At this time in France there remained political instability and persecution of the clergy. Our Lady gave us the prayer inscribed on the medal O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.
Catherine was a poor farm girl who had lost her mother at a young age, she had turned to Marian devotion in the depth of her grief. She came to the Sisters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul at the age of 24. Our Lady revealed the medal Catherine was to have struck in some detail and told her to ask her confessor to carry out the instructions. It took Catherine two years to convince her confessor of the verity of her visions, she had to write out several accounts and after this time he concluded that she was a practical, honest, sane person. The first two-thousand medals were delivered on June 30, 1832. Nobody but Catherine's confessor knew the identity of the nun it had been revealed to and its spread through France was miraculous in itself. It quickly earned the title we all associate it with while Catherine retreated in silence to work with the elderly and infirm in the countryside - no one realising her link to the medal. She is often called the saint of silence for this reason. It was only in the year of her death that she admitted to another nun that she was the recipient of the medal instruction.
In many ways it was a vision that leads us to the clear confirmation at Lourdes "I am the immaculate conception".
I was given my own miraculous medal for my first holy communion at the age of 8 and have increasingly come to value its significance. This summer I joined the Malitia of the Immaculata, which is a worldwide ecclesial movement founded by Maximilian Kolbe in 1917. It is a movement of prayer based around the prayer and medal as revealed to Catherine Laboure. Its principal prayer is:
O Mary,conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you, and for all those who do not have recourse to you, especially enemies of the Holy Church and all those recommended to to you.
I really like how St Catherine's medal is quietly linked to so many other saints and events in our Church, much like the woman herself, it remains a powerful witness of hope.